Natalie contacted us because her relationship with Ben had ended and they now needed a property settlement.
Natalie was 25 years old and Ben was 27. They had been together for 5 years. They had not yet started a family.
When they started their relationship, Natalie did not own very much, being in the work force for only a few years. She had a modest car and a few savings. Ben had been given a house by his parents valued at about $345,000 and owned his own car. Natalie had a small amount of superannuation while Ben had slightly more.
They were both young and healthy. Their incomes were similar and they could expect to have long careers in the workforce.
The contributions of each of them to their property pool was quite unequal. Ben was entitled to the greatest share of the pool because of the house that he owned prior to starting the relationship. An underlying principle in short relationships (of less than about 7 years), is that each party generally takes what they brought into the relationship.
However, as Natalie had contributed to the relationship, sharing her income and helping to maintain Ben’s home for 5 years, she was entitled to a cash payment as part of her property settlement. Ben, on the other hand, did not want to pay Natalie anything.
We were able to firmly negotiate on behalf of Natalie for a very reasonable cash payment which recognised her 5 years of contributions to the joint pool. In the end, Ben relented rather than continue to fight over a small pool. He retained his home and car and was able to raise the funds to make a reasonable payment to Natalie.
The most important point to take away from Natalie’s example is that when relationships are short, the assets that a person brings into the relationship will have a significant bearing on what they are entitled to in a property settlement.
*Not their real names.
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